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The three practical first steps when divorcing

View profile for Steph Preston
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Whether your spouse has asked for a divorce or it’s you who has reached the decision to end your marriage, a divorce will inevitably be an emotional time for you and your children.  You will likely be feeling overwhelmed about the upheaval that will come over the approaching months, and anxious about what the future holds for you and your family.  You will naturally be looking for support from your friends and family, but also seeking practical, legal advice to makes the next steps into your new life as manageable as possible.  Steph Preston, Paralegal in our Family Law team, here reviews the three initial considerations if you are facing a divorce, and how we can assist you moving forward.

1). Financial arrangements when divorcing

One of the first steps is to review your finances as that will enable you to make decisions about your living arrangements and who will care for the children in the short term.  At this stage, you may not wish to consider the big factors such as selling the family home or how you will split pensions as that will come later, but you will need to discuss paying household bills, the mortgage, food shopping, school fees, travel expenses or medical bills that may crop up in the short term future. 

We would recommend you take into account the following:

  • If one of you is staying in the family home in the short term, will the other person be contributing to the mortgage or rent?  Are they able to do so if they are paying towards their own accommodation?
  • If you have children, you will need to review the cost of running two households.
  • Take the opportunity when reviewing finances to collate a list of:
    • Bank accounts and access
    • Bills and payments
    • Debts and the liability for those
    • Overdrafts
    • Other assets
  • In every relationship, it’s likely that one person oversees more of the financial arrangements than the other, so bringing your information together will be extremely useful in making these decisions and will avoid disputes further down the road.

While this can seem daunting, when the official proceedings into your financial arrangements do begin, which can take several months to complete, this initial groundwork will set you in good stead.

2).  Making arrangements for your children during a divorce

Once you have come to an agreement about your finances and have a plan, you will need to inform your children of your decision.  We appreciate that given the circumstances of your separation, you may not be feeling amicable towards your spouse, however you should bear in mind that anything you say to your children will have a lasting impact on their relationship with the other parent and essentially on their own wellbeing.  Try and tell your children together so they can see you take a united front and work together to reassure them as this will enable their transition as best as possible. 

In most situations, your children will want to continue to see both of you and so you should respect that and allow plans to be made.  Having an agreed schedule of who will be doing what, such as school runs, homework and taking them to after school clubs will help you all adjust to a new routine.

In the longer term, you will need to agree where the children will live, how much contact they will have with the other parent and how they will be staying in touch with wider family members. 

3). Property arrangements when divorcing

When looking at your financial arrangements you will have decided who will remain in the family home or whether you will continue to stay under the same roof. 

If your situation requires you to continue living together in the short term, boundaries will need to be agreed at the outset to keep disputes to a minimum.  If you are required to move out and find alternative residence, you should locate any paperwork relating to the ownership of the property that may assist in your rights when selling the home.  When staying in the property, do not change the locks or alarm codes to restrict access, unless you have been advised to do so if you or your children are at risk. 

In the long term, it is likely you will sell the family home so it’s advisable to instruct a few estate agents to give you a valuation and speak to your mortgage advisor so you understand all of your options.  When looking at alternative properties, if you have children you should bear in mind the location for their school, friends, activities etc.

Next steps when divorcing

All of these considerations are the initial plans you need to make following the decision to divorce, with the next being the more formal proceedings of applying for a divorce and making any financial or children arrangements legally binding.  This will essentially be an extension of the decisions you have already reached, however sometimes these are not easy or one partner does not abide to the arrangements you have made. 

“In theory, it is always best for everyone when decisions can be reached amicably, however we know that in reality this does not always happen,” concludes Steph.  “Even if you split on good terms, there will inevitably be times when you don’t agree, which is why it is always best to have legal advice when applying for divorce and applying for your financial order, as your solicitor will know best how to move forward and whether Family Mediation may be required to assist.”

To discuss your divorce with Steph or a member of the Family Law team, you can contact us today on 023 8071 7431 or email familyenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.